A vapor hazard includes any contamination you can breathe, no matter what form it takes: Dust in the
air, atomized liquids or aerosols, or true gases. Generally, vapors dissipate rapidly so you do not need to
decontaminate them. However, some agent vapors, such as atomized blister, create a transfer hazard
because they settle out of the air and coat the surface. As long as solid or liquid contamination remains
on the surface, it can continually generate new vapors. Liquids will evaporate. Dust may be thrown into
the air by wind or movement. Generally, when a transfer hazard exists, a vapor hazard also exists.
Liquid chemical contamination is quickly absorbed into most surfaces. Once absorbed, it begins to
desorb or outgas; that is, low levels of vapor pass out of the contaminated surface into the air or on any
adjacent surface, including bare skin.
For example, if you were operating a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) that
was desorbing nerve agent, you should protect yourself by wearing, as a minimum, your protective mask
and gloves. Exposure to the desorbing nerve agent might blur-your vision or interfere with your ability
to think clearly. Handling a steering wheel bare-handed when it is desorbing nerve agent may also cause
acute nerve agent poisoning.
You can prevent desorption by decontaminating quickly, before any agent can be absorbed into the
surface. If you do not decon soon enough, you must use caustic decontaminants, such as DS2, that
penetrate into the surface and destroy the agent there. Such caustic decontaminants may damage
surfaces, remove paint, seep through clothing, and burn exposed skin. You must decontaminate as soon
as possible to avoid desorption hazards.
Fallout areas will be the largest of the contaminated areas produced on the battlefield. Such fallout
levels can, therefore, influence actions on the battlefield for a considerable period of time. Casualty-
producing levels of fallout can extend to greater distances and cover greater areas than most other
nuclear weapons effects. The penetrating energy of radiation does not fit directly into any of the
previous categories. Radiation is given off by radioactive dust or dirt, which appears as fallout. For
decontamination purposes, radiation can be thought of as a solid. Radioactive contamination can usually
be removed by brushing, wiping, shaking, or washing with hot, soapy water. Early decontamination is
necessary to cut down the cumulative effects of radiation. If you do not decontaminate quickly, small